The right to protest: the case of Nigeria

Protesting is a fundamental human right. It is the means through which people can voice
their opinions to inspire positive social change. In Nigeria the right to protest is safeguarded
under sections 38, 39, 40 and 41 of the Constitution.

What is End SARS?

End SARS is a series of mass peaceful protests, without ethno-religious
tensions, against police brutality and corruption in Nigeria. Young Nigerians protested across
Nigeria against a police unit named Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) tasked with
fighting violent crimes yet known for its brutality and abuse of power. Eventually SARS
protests turned into a broader call for improved governance. This social movement started in
2017 and its international resurgence was noted in 2020. #EndSARS became widely known
through Twitter, as 28 million tweets are bearing the hashtag. The movement soon gained
global attention as Nigerians of the diaspora demonstrated around the world in solidarity to
Nigerians.

Who has been primarily targeted by SARS officers?

The group that has been mostly targeted by the abuses of SARS officers is young male
Nigerians. SARS officers primarily profile young male Nigerians based on their fashion
choices and tattoos. SARS officers have been notorious for setting up illegal road blocks,
conducting unwarranted searches and illegally detaining Nigerians. There is evidence of
their unlawful actions through videos uploaded on social media.

The Lekki massacre

A turning point to the End SARS movement was when Nigerian soldiers shot thousands of
protestors at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos in October 20, 2020. According to Amnesty
International, hundreds of people were severely injured and 120 civilians were killed.

Implications of the protests

In the aftermath of the Lekki shootings many people are worried about speaking out about
what they saw because they are afraid of being disproportionately targeted. Especially,
queer Nigerians encounter homophobic prejudice especially from their community after
putting their sexuality on display during the end SARS protests. Temporary safe houses
have been created for queer people who need shelter as a result of the violence they have
received due to their sexual preferences. The people behind this initiative are ‘Mathew
Blaise, Adaeze Feyisayo, Temmie Ovwasa, and Tobi Afolabi’.

Conclusion

Ultimately the goal of the SARS protests was to draw attention to the human rights violations
committed by the police. Unfortunately, the police still arrests indiscriminately Nigerians and
subjects them to inhuman treatment. Even though SARS has been disbanded for the 5 th time
since 2015, police violence has not ceased. Nigerians need to stand up and fight for their
rights even if it means risking their lives.

MARIETTA KOSMA

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